While I don’t think that the job market experience will ever be considered “good,” after going on the market again as an assistant professor there is one thing that I think would improve the job market for both candidates and search committees: don’t request everything up front.
For me, a complete set of job market materials typically consisted of: cover letter, CV, teaching statement, research statement, evidence of teaching effectiveness, and letters of recommendation. Sometimes, schools added to this with requests for diversity statements, unofficial transcripts, or, worst of all, official transcripts. Even once I got rolling with the application process, it typically took me at least an hour to put all of these things together. This time included visiting the school’s website and tailoring my cover letter and evidence of teaching effectiveness for a particular job. The thing is, some of these schools probably didn’t look past my cover letter and CV before deciding that I wasn’t going to make the cut, so again I implore search committees: don’t request everything up front.
Submitting only a cover letter and CV would have reduced the amount of time I spent on each application dramatically, while still giving search committees the chance to see if I made the first cut. Not only would this have made my life easier, I suspect that it would make things easier for search committees, too. I found that for schools that requested everything up front, I tailored my evidence of teaching effectiveness to include only relevant courses, but left my teaching and research statements largely the same. For schools that requested cover letters and CVs first, followed by a request for more materials if I made the first cut, however, I tended to tailor my teaching and research statements as well. Knowing that the search committee had at least some interest in my application allowed me to put a bit more effort into it than I did otherwise, which likely gave them a better idea of how I would fit into their department and allowed them to make a more informed judgment about my application.
I’m sure that some candidates put this level of effort into all of their applications, but this probably isn’t feasible for those who cannot dedicate all of their time for a semester to applying for jobs. Since nearly everything is electronic now, giving candidates a week to submit additional materials would seem to be a worthwhile delay in the hiring process. The more schools that do this, the more time candidates can spend tailoring their materials for the schools that are actually interested in them and the less time will be wasted getting things “just right” for schools that will take one look at their CVs and place their application in the “not a chance in Hell” pile because they used Arial.
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